The argument often used when extreme or intolerant speakers appear on campus is that it exposes their views to challenge from students, but in our experience this doesn’t happen often enough.
Here, Harvir Dhillon, the president of Oxford Brookes University Quilliam Society, details his attempts to do so when Hamza Tzortzis appeared on campus. All views are his own, and do not necessarily represent those of Student Rights…
It’s not every day that an Islamist comes to speak at Oxford Brookes and I could hardly have passed up the opportunity to attend an event where the speaker was none other than Hamza Tzortzis.
For those who are unfamiliar with Hamza, here is a good reference point for some of the things he has said, in the past.
He came to deliver a lecture on ‘Islam and the Rational Mind’, and what struck me about Hamza was just how cordial and amicable he ostensibly was. He cracked jokes and even addressed me as “bro” at one point.
The content of the lecture generally stuck to ontological and cosmological arguments for the existence of a creator deity named Allah, and most of the arguments elucidated by Hamza will have been heard by those who have listened to debates between theists and non-theists.
The terrain Hamza covered rarely leapt into Islam’s actual prescriptions for living as a devout follower, and if one were expecting Hamza to discuss Sharia and why the implementation of it would be a good thing, one would be disappointed.
Following the talk, which lasted around one and a half hours, there was a Q&A session that lasted about half an hour.
My initial question was regarding what Hamza had not discussed: What the creator of the universe prescribes for his followers on Earth.
Did Hamza, for example, think homosexuality is sinful and should be frowned upon? His answer was the typical apologist mantra that he doesn’t hate the sinner but the sin.
I gave another stab at a question, but this time regarding apostasy and whether it should carry the penalty of death. Hamza’s answer was that I check his website.
He then talked about how there are many apostates in his family (rather like the racist who says he has black friends) and how those who leave the faith of Islam should be treated with “compassion”.
I was getting frustrated by his evasion at this point, so I pressed him on whether a thief should have his hands cut off in an ideal state.
He said that the harsh punishments promoted by Islamic scripture would never actually happen in said ideal state because the criteria for being punished would be so hard to meet.
Such criteria, as stated by Hamza, would be that there must be four witnesses and that the act must be in public. These punishments, therefore, are more of a deterrent than to be actually carried out.
I sensed a lot of disingenuousness in this line of argument, which is a rather squirmy way of endorsing Sharia’s prescribed punishments without seeming to actively support them.
Islamists often go to pains to conceal their fascist views as well as they can, so questions like the ones I posed to Hamza have to be asked so we can robustly challenge these views on campus.